Userplane Re-Invents the Message Board | Syber Blog

Long before there was a Facebook, MySpace, or even Friendster, message boards were the de facto online communities. And while there are still thousands of popular boards scattered around the Web, there has been little innovation in terms of the software that powers them, minus a few upstarts we recently profiled.

This week, community software builder Userplane is throwing its hat in the ring with an innovative new message board product – Userplane Boards. The service combines aspects of Userplane’s other services like chat and IM with threaded message board discussion, creating a real-time environment that makes following conversations much easier.

For example, let’s say you’re in an active message board discussing the Olympics. In a traditional message board, by the time you finish typing your post, a dozen other people may have already posted similar ideas, making your post repetitive and creating all sorts of noise on the board. With Userplane Boards, which are Flash-based, the new messages (which can include photo and video) stream in real-time, meaning you’ll see what other people are posting as you write. In this sense, it’s sort of like a chat room, except, like a message board, people who join in later can see the prior discussion.

Beyond the real-time features, which include integration with Userplane’s IM products for one-to-one messaging, a number of other options make Boards a viable replacement for existing systems like phpBB or vBulletin. image For one, Userplane is making it easy to migrate, offering a tool for vBulletin users to migrate their posts and user data, and allowing an import of any standard XML file for those currently using other board software. Beyond that, Userplane Boards feature a CSS style system so message board owners can customize the look and feel to match their site. Finally, each thread also offers an embeddable widget, so the discussion can be embedded elsewhere, in turn generating more traffic for the message board.

Why is Userplane getting into message boards now, when the format has seemingly been supplanted by other forms of online community? According to Product Manager Shane Hall, who I spoke with last week, Boards represents a happy medium between passive and real-time conversation. “The problem with chat is you need to get critical mass … boards solves this problem because when people join they can see the full history of the conversation … and also, if it’s a really active thread that’s based around an event, you’ll see it in real-time.”

Like most Userplane products, Boards are available for free, but include advertising from parent company AOL’s Platform-A. But that can be turned off, as Userplane works with larger publishers individually on revenue share and/or licensing deals if they would like to sell their own advertising.